KOCHI — The Kerala High Court on Tuesday ordered that no protests or demonstrations should be held at Sabarimala, holding that it was not a place for such activities.
The court also set aside the 'unilateral' restrictions imposed by police on the devotees in Sannidhanam (temple complex) and appointed a three-member team as its observers there during the ongoing Mandala-Makaravilakku festival season.
Considering a batch of petitions on the Sabarimala issue, a division bench comprising justices PR Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar said that no protests or demonstrations should be held at the Sannidhanam as it was not a place for such activities.
The court also modified the restrictions imposed on chanting Ayyappa mantra as well as a ban imposed on halting at the Sannidhanam.
It said that women, children and the physically challenged can halt at the complex.
The hill shrine had been witnessing protests by devotees and right wing groups against the government's decision to implement the 28 September Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups to pray at the temple.
Tension, frequent protests and restrictions imposed by police at the complex and surroundings had kept pilgrims away from Sabarimala, but their numbers have slowly picked up.
The Advocate General Tuesday handed over a sealed cover to the court on the proposed modalities to ensure smooth and safe pilgrimage for women of the prohibited age group.
The court said retired high court judges PR Raman and Siri Jagan and senior IPS officer A Hemachandran would be its observers at Sannidhanam in the Mandala-Makaravilakku season.
The court made it clear that prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC shall prevail at Sabarimala.
It came down heavily on an IPS officer for his 'excesses' on devotees, including obstructing a High Court judge during his pilgrimage to the hill shrine recently.
The Court observed that the broad mindedness of the judge who was "insulted" should not be construed as a weakness.
It was only due to the request of the judge that action was not initiated against the officer, the court said.
The Chief Justice was also aware of the incident, it said.
The court observed that some IPS officers were crossing their limits and bringing a bad reputation to the police.
However, it expressed faith in police and hoped that the force would discharge their duties more efficiently.
It also removed restrictions imposed by police for plying round the clock KSTRC bus services between the Nilackal base camp and the Sannidhananm.
Since the apex court verdict, no women in the 10-50 age group has succeeded in offering prayers at the shrine, where the deity is "Naishtika Brahmachari" (perennial celebate).
The Ayyappa temple was opened on 16 November for the over two-month-long pilgrimage season amid tension.